Sam Gough picks up tourney win

Congratulations to Halton's EveryBall International Academy player Sam Gough (pictured on the right with his winner's medal) who won the Winter Regional 12&U Tournament at Leeds Met University, Carnegie this weekend. Sam beat George Baird (number 1 seed and 4 in UK at 11&U) in the final. Already ranked 8 in GB at 11&U this win should see him rise even higher in the next published rankings. Even more important however is the fact that Sam has made ever increasing improvements in his game over the last few months and has focused well on what he can control - effort and attitude. Well done Sam.

Power versus.......

Just back from tutoring in Nottingham on the LTA Senior Performance Coach Course. 3 good days with the course candidates - plenty of debate, discussion, learning and challenge for us all.

Been a few days since the last post so a few thoughts.... 

With modern technology (balls, rackets, court surfaces), the increased physical fitness of the competitive player, and the advances in biomechanics, tennis has moved on incredibly in terms of power generation, but is it truly a power sport? The case is strong, but perhaps consistency, accuracy and precision are still the more dominant factors. 

Shot-put is a 'power' sport - you only have to get it right once to win Olympic Gold, whereas in tennis you've got to get it right over and over again with great precision, timing and accuracy. In this sense, it is truly a game of black and white - either the ball is in or out, either you are 'in' position to execute effectively or you're not. Power only becomes relevant within the boundaries of consistency and accuracy.

So what are the implications for us as coaches working with young players? Do players develop power first and then add the necessary control or the other way round? Perhaps it doesn't matter which side of the argument you fall, but ultimately to understand the relationship between power and accuracy/control to help produce a consistent result shot after shot is vitally important. The ability to perceive the flight of the incoming ball, prepare body, feet and racket accordingly, time the contact point and manage the racket face to perfection creates a hugely demanding feat of co-ordination and precision.

Yet our game is also full of gray areas, and these tend to be around the 'decision' making process. Whilst receiving the oncoming ball, a player has to choose the correct shot from a number of different options based around his/her court position, strengths/weaknesses, the quality of the oncoming ball, and the position of the opponent and his/her strengths weaknesses. And these decisions need to be made again and again and again with different variables thrown in at any given time - scoreboard pressure, nerves, etc, etc.

Prepared to commit to fight for every ball? You need to be!

It's all in the analysis

Observation and analysis are two words that often get thrown together to mean one, or with a stroke in-between to say they might be a bit different but no-one really knows the difference! A bit like vision/mission, aims/objectives, strategy/tactics and any others you care to come up with!

I like this simple definition. Observation is the 'what' you see/record. For example, Kathrin Woerle (Germany and pictured below) against Victoria Azarenka in their first round Aussie Open encounter had a winning first serve percentage of 41% (11/27). Fact.

The analysis is the 'why' which of course can be far more open to debate. Anything from attitude, injury, poor technique, great returning from Azarenka could be reasons why. Coaches and players alike need to be keen observers. But observing is not enough - becoming excellent analysts is vital, both to on-court mid-correction and post-match analysis and improvement.

Might be an idea to practice that this week. What do you see happening? Can you be specific and measure this? Then ask yourself why it's happening and see where your analysis takes you, because it's only in the analysis that we can actually begin to seek solutions to getting better.

An inspired man once wrote....

Many centuries ago, an inspired man wrote that one who guides a plow does not look back, or by inference, into the immense distance - but to the next step that must be taken. Pretty wise words I think. We all can look back to past results or behaviour and feel disappointed. We can also look too far ahead and feel overwhelmed. But if we just look towards the next step that has to be taken and break things down into manageable chunks we can actually see, feel and measure progress, making the biggest of challenges achievable.

That's part of the 'everyball' ethos - the ability to focus on the next ball, not the one before or the one after, but the one in front of you RIGHT now. As a kid growing up in Kenya I remember heading back to boarding school after the holidays. During some rather emotional good-byes, my Dad would often say, 'Mike, keep your eye on the ball'. It was his way of saying, 'one day at a time son, stay focused, don't look back nor too far forward but just on the ball that's in your court.'

Have a great week.

Right versus well

I was talking to a parent of one of our top youngsters today about the difference between wanting to do things 'right' or 'well'.

Doing things 'right' could mean conforming to a recognised belief about how something should be done, whereas doing things 'well' can mean simply being more effective with what you do with the ball. There are countless examples of players impacting their sport in significant ways by doing things well as opposed to right. Borg with his table tennis style, open stance groundstrokes, Rafa with his over-the-head finish on his forehand, Steffi Graf with her late contact point on the same wing. Did Donald Bradman (below) the famous Aussie cricketer play with a cross-bat much of the time, so good was his eye?

Aiming to do things right is admirable and I applaud it. By aiming to do things well you may just become a trail-blazer.

Mistakes!

I was listening to Kris Soutar, one of my co-tutors on the LTA SPC course in Nottingham, present to candidates last week. He mentioned that in figure-skating the very best of the best fall more often in training than their competitors. Why? Because the top skaters are constantly challenging themselves at that sweet spot on the very edge of their ability where reach is continually exceeded by grasp. Learning really takes off when we understand the value of making mistakes - our emotional response to them as being helpful and providing direction as opposed to them being a challenge to a fixed view of our ability/talent. A toddler learns to walk by eyeing up the sofa on the other side of the living room and makes those first tentative steps into the unknown. At the first fall she doesn't think, 'Oh, I'm no good at this!!', she just gets up, re-sets her sights and tries again, somehow learning from each fall until mission is accomplished. At what point then did we start to link errors with failure or lack of ability?

Everyball players make their mark in 'home' event

A number of Everyball players made their mark on the LTA Grade 3 Event held at Halton between Christmas and New Year.

Congratulations to the following players: Alexa Wilson (Winner, U8 Red event), Daniel Dean (Finalist, Orange), Imogen Scarles (Winner, U10 Girls), Oscar Glenister (U12 Boys semi-finalist), Jake Williams (U12 Boys semi-finalist), Jack Malloy (Finalist, U12 Boys), Sam Gough (Winner, U12 Boys), Alex Fage (Winner, U14 Boys).

Special mention to Alex Fage who had a couple of great wins in the semis and finals and in doing so demonstrated that solid, disciplined tennis combined with a great attitude and competitive spirit can take you a long way. The U12 Boys final was also of the highest quality with Sam Gough and Jack Malloy both playing towards the top of their games with some enthralling points.

Well done to all players taking part. Pictured below - Sam Gough and Jack Malloy receiving their trophies (great creative trophies by '5 star trophies') and prizes kindly donated by the Royal Air Force. Thanks very much to Sarah Tricks, Camilla Hayward, James Morgan and their helpers for such a well organised event.

Absence of adversity?

With best wishes to each other for a New Year, it's that time when we turn our thinking towards 2011 with hope and anticipation - resolutions, new commitments and goals, health and happiness. It would be worth noting, however, that the 'abundant' life we hope and wish for will not be characterized by the absence of adversity. Abundant life is in fact growth in the midst of adversity, and what better tool do we have in life to help teach us this but sport.

We only need to look at the current plight of the Australian Cricket team to demonstrate this, and through the pain and adversity they are currently in will no doubt spring the green shoots of growth and recovery. That's why we love to identify with the ground level struggle of fighting for every ball - it's through that struggle and our mistakes that we learn. I got a text message last night from one of my players that read: 'Hey Mike - I won that match 3-6 7-7 (5) 10-8. Felt so ill for the whole match it was crazy. Played mediocre.' There's a good example of a little adversity and clearly a great response to it.

So as you think about the New Year, don't only look towards what you might be blessed with, but also what you are going to be challenged by and how you are going to grow as a result.

Happy Christmas and New Year!!

Here's to a happy Christmas and New Year! Many thanks for all your business, support and encouragement over 2010 and here at Everyball we look forward to working with you again in 2011 with great anticipation and excitement.

Core beliefs

Hi friends of Everyball,

Please take a look at our revised set of core beliefs for the academy that underpin our mission to 'Educate, Motivate and Inspire'. They are posted on the home page of www.everyball.net - just click on the green heading on left-hand side. The value of posting these? To hold ourselves accountable towards striving to meet them day to day, but also to share with you and other interested parties our thinking - much has been 'creatively adapted' (rather than slavishly adopted!) from other sources, so it's only right that we continue to make our contribution to the never-ending 'coaching' debate which no doubt you are part of if you read this blog.